THREE MINUTES. A measly three minutes are what I had missed driving the Jaguar F-Pace by at the Times Auto Awards jury evaluation round at the Kari Motor Speedway a few months ago. I remember looking at its gorgeous shape as it was driven away from the race track. In my mind, that was it. I had missed the bus. I didn’t know back then that another one was on the way. So here I am at the wheel of a spanking new white (would have much preferred the red) F-Pace. But why is it here again?

What’s new?
This, my friends, is the Prestige variant powered by a two-litre fourcylinder diesel engine and not the three-litre turbo diesel that Sirish drove a few months ago. This one puts out 177bhp at 4000 revs and 430Nm of torque at 1750-2500 revs, all of which are transmitted via an eight-speed automatic gearbox.

What else?
Precious little really. The rest of the vehicle is pretty much the same. It has the same taut monocoque, the same suspension set up and those drop dead gorgeous looks. The only other change is in the quality of materials used in the interiors. This being the poorer cousin of the top spec vehicle that we drove earlier, doesn’t feel as premium. It’s not a deal breaker really but certainly could be an area of improvement.

Will it turn heads?
Frankly, I think it’s the best looking SUV till date and my opinion seems to have been vindicated by the World Car of the Year (WCOTY) jury who adjudged it the Design of the Year when it met in New York just a few weeks ago. If you’re into action flicks then you’ll know what I mean when I say that the F-Pace’s musculature is more like that of Bruce Lee than of Arnie.

How quick?
The motor doesn’t lack power but the grin inducing punch of the larger mill is missing. And it’s missed too for when you do step on it there is none of the thrill that a sudden rush of propulsion brings with it. Instead the car moves ahead with increased urgency. Sure, it’s efficient and certainly more economical but exciting it isn’t really. Fun to drive It is, and largely due to its excellent dynamic abilities. In the handling department it’s as good as the Porsche Macan, and that’s really saying something. Body roll is controlled and its ability to etch a line around a turn is phenomenal. The poise with which this vehicle goes through bends is absolutely fantastic. The steering feels well weighted and provides a decent amount of feedback. I liked the ride quality too. Frankly it is extremely well balanced where it comes to a compromise between ride and handling. Neither is gained at the cost of the other.

Easy on the pocket
Well, that’s a matter of perspective really since this SUV will set your finances back by just shy of `80 lakh. So it really is for someone who’s closer to the top of the wealth pyramid. At that price point you’re also looking at SUVs like the Audi Q7, the BMW X5 and the Volvo XC 90 among others. Admittedly, some of the others seem to have the edge over the F-Pace but none of them have something this good looking in my garage. I can’t recall a single street or road I drove through where heads didn’t turn. Some for a second, or even a third glance. It’s a corner hungry beast when the going gets twisty. The ride is admittedly stiff but I was willing to live with it because those head-turning good looks and the excellent dynamics would have been compensation enough for me. If only the engine felt a bit spunkier and those interiors felt as premium as what I’ve seen in its rivals, I’d already be at the bank’s car loan section.